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Fanatec CSL DD with the new QR2 Quick Release: Review

Fanatec CSL DD with QR2

Featured Image: Fanatec CSL DD with new QR2 quick release

The CSL DD, first launched in 2021 really shook up the direct drive owners club. No longer was direct drive the pinnacle of sim racing reserved for those with the highest budgets.

Pretty much overnight the CSL DD made belt and gear drive wheelbases obsolete. Since then, a few low-budget entrants have entered the market – most notably, the Moza R5 and R9. I’ve recently reviewed the R5 so you can read that review here, and (spoiler alter I compared the CSL DD to the R9, too) Today’s big news, of course, is that Fanatec has revised the QR system on Fanatec wheels and wheelbases – the QR2.

CSL DD setup for sim racing on a desk
Desktop sim setup with the CSL DD

The QR1 quick release we’ve been so used to now for over a decade. The QR2 is a fundamentally different proposition that solves the main problem that some of the original QR1s presented: play (or flex, if you like). There were solutions to the original problem (via the Z-Ring) but finally, Fanatec’s weakness is now a strength. We’ll cover the QR2 throughout this review, which looks at the following gear as a bundle:

Fanatec CSL DD with wheelside (Type C) QR hub
Fanatec CSL DD with wheel side (Type C) Quick Release

I specifically asked for the desk clamp – so that I could do a like-for-like comparison to the Moza but also, I suspect there’s a huge market for desktop-mounted wheels with gaming chairs and pedal setups.

Later in our series, I’ll be mounting the CSL DD and the Moza in an Overpower.gg “child rig” and testing to see how our younger racers get along with both items.

Wheel and wheelbase mounted via the QR2 hub
Wheel and wheelbase mounted via the QR2

But, back to the point of the review – the CSL DD with the QR2 quick release. The TL;DR – Fanatec is the obvious choice at this level. It’s well-supported, versatile, and nicely built and the new QR is a zero-play gamechanger.


Fanatec Direct Drive Wheels

Rear: ports for accessories, power and USB
Rear: ports for accessories, power and USB

The new QR2 mates the wheel to the wheelbase with a satisfying “clack” and then, no movement. It’s a strong QR and the Pro version has FIA approval. Looking at it from a racer’s point of view I can’t find a reason why I wouldn’t use this quick release on my (IRL) racing car – it’s clearly extremely strong, and simple.

What Makes the CSL DD Special?

Fanatec CSL DD

Direct-drive technology, once exclusive to elite racers, is now accessible thanks to the CSL DD.

In a few short years, this unit has disrupted the market, forcing competitors to rethink their pricing strategies. With the QR2 Quick Release, Fanatec takes it a step further. This quick-release system isn’t merely a new accessory; it’s a game-changer. The QR2 ensures seamless wheel changes and critically, solves the original problems associated with the QR1.

Rear: new Universal Hub V2 with QR2 fitted

The QR2 is a significant change, but it’s quite a simple one. By looking at the QR2 specs for each variant you can quickly and easily work out the differences and which is right for your setup. Here are the wheel side QRs:



wheel side QR2 options
QR2 Pro Wheel-SideQR2 Wheel-SideQR2 Lite Wheel-Side
Meets FIA standardsMotorsport-derived quick release (wheel-side)Upgrades compatible CSL / CSL Elite Steering Wheels with an exchangeable quick release to the QR2 system
Spring-loaded locking pin mechanism and tapered shape naturally ensure a tight fitDiecast aluminium with CNC-machined and black anodised finishMotorsport-derived quick release (wheel-side)
Can be attached to QR2 Base-Side without touching the spring-loaded sleeve mechanismPTFE coating for easy detachment from the Wheel BaseSpring-loaded locking pin mechanism and tapered shape naturally ensure a tight fit
PTFE coating for easy detachment from the wheel BaseCan be attached to QR2 Base-Side without touching the spring-loaded sleeve mechanismCarbon fibre-reinforced polyamide construction Uses recycled carbon fibre
Fits all Fanatec Steering Wheels with exchangeable quick release (see compatibility page) Connects to all QR2 Base-Side variantsFits all Fanatec Steering Wheels with exchangeable. quick releaseSpring-loaded locking pin mechanism, and tapered shape naturally ensure a tight fit
Connects to all QR2 Base-Side variantsConnects to all QR2 Base-Side variants

I’d like to upgrade my system to QR2

Of course, you may own a Fanatec unit with the QR1 quick release on it. If you wish to upgrade, here are your options:

The “Type C” on the right (which is what’s fitted to our CSL DD) or the “Type M” which as I understand it is intended for the DD1 and DD2 direct drive wheelbases.

Type C” QR” Wheelbase side QR on the left and the “Type M” (for DD1 / DD2)

Before mounting the QR2 Wheel-Side to your steering wheel, it’s essential to swap out the existing metal washer surrounding the connector pins with the provided plastic one. The Quick start Guide will indicate whether you need the included Torx bolts for certain Fanatec steering wheels. Every QR2 Wheel-Side can be paired with any QR2 Base-Side. Compatibility for the win!

Clubsport Rim 320 attached to Universal Hub v2
Clubsport Rim 320 attached to Universal Hub v2

Please note that all QR2 units have been subjected to quality assessments, including attach-detach and connectivity evaluations. As a result, minor markings might be present.



Performance and Compatibility

The CSL DD performed flawlessly in iRacing. Although very early testing (back in 2021) faced some driver issues, the unit now offers a consistent experience across multiple games and importantly (to our readers. I think) needs almost no knowledge of sim racing setup to get racing. The QR2 Quick Release enhances the experience, allowing for quick wheel swaps without compromising the integrity of the force feedback or the user experience.

While I appreciate there’s some cost involved with updating your equipment – there’s no rush if you’re happy with what you own.

However, Fanatec has made the update process very easy. Each QR, be it the base side or wheel side, comes with instructions and the tools you’ll need to modify your equipment. if you decide to buy a new wheel, that might be a good time to do the wheelbase side upgrade.

Pedals

The pedal kit arrived in two boxes – the CSL kit itself and the loadcell pedal upgrade:

Fanatec CSL Pedals ready to be constructed
Fanatec CSL Pedals ready to be constructed

Here’s the Load Cell (LC) kit, which I immediately installed:

Fanatec load cell pedal
Fanatec load cell pedal

As a reviewer I made a point of jumping straight to the CSL DD from the Moza R5. They both come with “comparable” pedal kits, a load cell or load cell update kit and are generally considered low-budget pedals. So expectations were not high.

Completing the build: Fanatec LC Pedals
Completing the build: Fanatec LC Pedals

Since testing these pedals, I’ve changed my mind about them – once built up and upgraded with the CSL Load Cell kit, I find heavier brake pedals that are far easier to control, the throttle works really well and the brake is super smooth.



Load cell pedal upgrade - well worth it!
Load cell pedal upgrade – well worth it!

Because of the load resistance, it’s easier not to lock up the front wheels. I really like these pedals – and was gently surprised by them!

Universal Hub V2 close up
Universal Hub V2 close up

From a design perspective, these pedals don’t start to tip at higher brake loads – they’ve been designed not to! Another place where it’s obvious that Fanatec is doing a better job than Moza on the Usability details.

Direct Drive: Fidelity, Dynamic Range, and Force Feedback

The CSL DD’s force feedback, amplified by Fanatec’s patented FluxBarrier technology, is really, really impressive. It offers nuanced, crisp, and dynamic sensations that are easy to reconcile to real driving conditions.

My desktop setup for the CSL DD
My desktop setup for the CSL DD

When you pair the CSL DD with the Boost Kit 180, the peak available torque increases from 5Nm to 8Nm. The detail and feedback take a step up too; there’s just more feedback – leaving me to wonder if 8Nm is the torque sweet spot.



Force Feedback (FFB) Analysis

The CSL DD’s force feedback, simply put, is shockingly good, especially at this price point. I expected something that felt similar but less powerful than the DD2, but this is on another level. If the CSL DD had 25Nm of peak torque I think it would destroy a DD2.

Harnessing Fanatec’s “FluxBarrier” technology, the wheel delivers feedback that’s both nuanced and lifelike. The immersive sensation isn’t just about the quality but also the consistency of forces across the wheel. Every bit of the road, from subtle asphalt textures to more pronounced oversteer moments, becomes palpably clear. With the standard 90W power supply, the CSL DD offers a smoother, gentler experience, making it ideal for novices. But, throw in the Boost Kit 180 (which I strongly recommend you do), and it’s a game-changer. The heightened feedback makes it easier to anticipate and react to the car’s behavior, especially when it’s on the edge. And while I played around with the settings (I confess, I immediately cranked up the FFB% to 100), the default configuration offers an accessible and safe experience, cushioning you from potential jolts during intense crashes.

Configuring Force Feedback (FFB) for Fanatec CSL DD:

Connect to Fanatec Wheel Property Page:

Ensure the CSL DD is connected to your computer.
Download and open the Fanatec Wheel Property Page on your PC.

The installer can be found on the product page
The installer can be found on the product page



Install Fanatec Driver 451, and access the ‘Tuning Menu’:

This menu allows users to individually customize the behaviour of their Fanatec wheelbase.



Adjust the ‘SEN’ Setting (Steering Angle):

This is the default tuning menu (note the links on the left)
This is the default tuning menu (note the links on the left)

This determines the number of degrees you turn the wheel compared to the number of degrees in-game. Auto (‘A’) mode lets the game decide the steering angle.

Configure the ‘FF’ Setting (Force Feedback Strength):

Adjust the overall strength of Force Feedback effects. Set the value between 0 (no force) and 100 (maximum force).

Modify the ‘DRI’ Setting (Drift Mode):

This setting can either add resistance or assist your steering input. Positive values help in turning the wheel more quickly, suitable for drifting. Negative values add resistance.~

Set the ‘FEI’ Setting (Force Effects Intensity):

Adjust this to set the intensity of Force Feedback effects. It filters the sharpness of the feedback. A lower value might feel smoother, while a higher value will feel rawer.

Adjust the ‘FOR’ and ‘SPR’ Settings (Force and Spring Effect Strength):

‘FOR’ adjusts the strength of the constant force effects in games.
‘SPR’ adjusts the strength of the spring effect in games.

Configure the ‘DMP’ Setting (Damper Effect Strength):

This setting determines the resistance to turning the wheel when stationary or moving slowly. Adjust according to your personal preference.

Save and Test:

After making the desired adjustments, save the settings.


Test the wheel in your preferred game/simulation to ensure the force feedback feels as desired. Adjust further if necessary.
Additional Notes:

Fanatec’s recommended CSL DD settings – note I’ve assigned these settings to “Setup 2” in advanced mode

It’s essential to understand that the in-game FFB settings and the settings in the wheel’s tuning menu both influence the final FFB output. You might need to adjust settings in both places to achieve the desired effect.

Set wheel force: to 8Nm – “Max Force” – the lower the number the higher the FFB. I recommend starting small


Remember that FFB settings (read this for a more in-depth guide to iRacing torque / FFB setup) can be highly subjective. What feels good for one person might not feel good for another. It’s recommended to start with the default or recommended settings and adjust incrementally based on personal preference.

Importantly, the QR2 quick-release system has also been identified as an “enhancer” of the FFB experience. The solid connection it provides, with no noticeable play, ensures that no details are lost between the wheel and the base. It feels nice and rock solid. This guarantees that the force feedback remains consistent and reliable.

However, it’s worth noting that while many users find the standard 5Nm torque more than sufficient, some experienced racers and sim enthusiasts I spoke with suggested that upgrading to the Boost Kit 180, boosting the torque to 8Nm, is a worthy investment. The added torque enhances the feedback’s dynamic range, allowing for more detailed force reproduction, especially in high-force scenarios like hard cornering or collisions. It improves things, of course.

Software and User Interface

Fanatec’s user interface and software for the CSL DD are comprehensive and user-friendly. Having tried numerous other supplier’s early software efforts, I’m afraid it’s bad news for them. Fanatec software has just got to the point of no messing around, everything just works and makes perfect sense.

fanatec driver package setup 1

I like the windows driver apps – all of the FFB settings can be changed in there. Installation presents no concerns, the software detects the wheelbase immediately and that’s the installation done.

Agree to the terms and conditions and the installer takes care of the rest
Agree to the terms and conditions and the installer takes care of the rest

It’s the simplest and easiest beginner experience and if you’re migrating to direct drive for the firs ttime, you’ll find the transition extremely simple. That’s what I like the most about the CSL DD.

Mounting Options and Compatibility

The CSL DD offers robust mounting options compatible with a wide range of devices. The introduction of the QR2 Quick Release is a layer of versatility, ensuring compatibility with Fanatec’s new range of QR2 wheels and other peripherals. If you’re mounting to the desktop it’s worth adding that the Clubsport base also works with the CSL DD and in my view is stiffer than it’s plastic counterpart.

Table Clamp:

The CSL DD can be mounted to a table or desk using the provided table clamp. This is a convenient option for those who don’t have a dedicated sim racing rig (yet) and want to temporarily attach the wheelbase to a table. Just ensure the surface is stable and can handle the force exerted by the wheelbase during use.

Side Mounting:

The CSL DD has side mounting holes that allow it to be attached to 8020 profile rigs (or other rigs that support side mounting). Adapters for 8020 profile rigs are absolutely everywhere – your own rig manufacturer will have one – and, if now – the Fanatec DD2 side mounts match the dimensions of the CSK DD. Rig mounting is preferred, but the CSL DD can be mounted via the base onto a wheel deck. I’m struggling to think of a sim rig manufacturer that doesn’t support a bottom-mounted Fanatec!

Conclusion

The Fanatec CSL DD, especially when paired with the QR2 Quick Release offers an impressive balance of performance, build quality, and affordability. Its wide game compatibility, powerful force feedback, and quiet operation make it the go-to option for both newcomers and veterans. It’s on that note that I would choose the CSL DD over the Moza R5/9 every time. (Sorry Moza – your stuff is very good too but I think it has more of a beginner’s scope / budget build appeal.

Pros:

  • Direct Drive Technology Accessibility: The CSL DD makes high-end direct drive technology accessible to a broader audience, disrupting the market.
  • QR2 Quick Release: The new QR2 quick release system is a significant improvement, offering a zero-play connection that enhances the force feedback experience.
  • Build Quality and Design: The CSL DD is well-built and designed, with a focus on durability and user experience.
  • Force Feedback Quality: Both reviews highlight the impressive force feedback that provides nuanced, crisp, and dynamic sensations, closely mimicking real driving conditions.
  • Compatibility and Versatility: The CSL DD is compatible with a wide range of Fanatec products and offers versatile mounting options.
  • Software and User Interface: Fanatec’s software is user-friendly and straightforward, contributing to a seamless setup and customization process.

Cons:

  • Material Quality Concerns: The material quality, particularly of the steering wheels, felt inferior compared to competitors (which arguably are higher priced, for example, Cube Controls) with some creaking and squeaking noted.
  • Quick Release Options: The current quick release options (QR-lite and QR1) were considered average, with the QR1 still exhibiting some play despite its cost.
  • Software Complexity: The need for two pieces of software (Fanatec Control Panel and Fanalab) was seen as cumbersome, with some initial firmware update issues reported.
  • Cost of Accessories: The cost of additional accessories, like the metal QR1 quick releases, can add significantly to the overall investment.

Issues Other Reviewers Found:

  • Software Installation: The initial setup of the software was a bit problematic, with firmware updates causing the wheelbase and wheel rim to temporarily stop responding.
  • Shipping Costs: High shipping costs for small items from (it’s almost always 25 EUROs to the UK) Fanatec were highlighted as a negative point, making small purchases less appealing.

If you’re looking to invest in an immersive sim racing experience that’s also future-proof, the CSL DD with the QR2 is the latest wheelbase to beat. The only bit of advice I’d give you – build a rig to go with this fantastic wheelbase: how to build a cheap simulator cockpit.


Fanatec CSL DD with the new QR2 Quick Release: Review

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